Summer is the high season for trauma, especially in the Northeast. It’s a time when more people are outside and active after being cooped up indoors for the long winter months. As a result, we often jump back into sports literally with a full swing despite being a little out of shape. It’s a behavior that seasonally results in higher numbers of injuries and emergency room visits.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly 2 million people every year suffer sports-related injuries and are seen in the emergency department for treatment, the cost of which can range from $2,294 for a sprain and $7,666 for an arm fracture.
In the United States, HHS data shows that the sports with the highest number of injuries among individuals above the age of 25 are:
• Bicycling – 126.5 per 100,000 individuals
• Basketball – 61.2 per 100,000 individuals
• Baseball and softball – 41.3 per 100,000 individuals
• Football – 25.2 per 100,000 individuals
• Soccer – 23.8 per 100,000 individuals
But you don’t need a contact sport to end up at the doctor’s office this summer. Plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, stressed fractures, and pulled muscles also occur in higher frequency as runners, high school, and college athletes begin training in earnest during the warmer months for fall sports and race season.
“Common things this season are chronic overuse injuries and acute traumatic reinjuries,” said Dr. Daniel Osuch, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine at New England Baptist Hospital and is a part of the physician group Orthopedics New England. Common overuse injuries include tendonitis and stress fractures. “These injuries don’t necessarily correlate to experience level either. Everyone from experienced runners to novices training for their first 5K end up in my office from these injuries.”
It’s gorgeous outside! How can we prevent these injuries and still have a good time? Here are six tips from Dr. Osuch.
1. Stay hydrated.
“Good nutrition and hydration is a good way to keep muscles working efficiently and avoid secondary problems,” said Dr. Osuch. “Dehydrated muscles won’t work as efficiently, so you’re more likely to have a cramp or pull a muscle.”
For activities that last longer than 45 minutes to an hour, Dr. Osuch suggests a sports drink with electrolytes or carb replacement in addition to water, but he warns that drinks like this tend to be high in sugar. “Half water is best with a sports drink.”
2. Take a warm-up lesson.
If it’s your first time playing a sport, or if you haven’t played in a while, don’t be afraid to take a lesson.
“Hire a trained professional who will pick up on those bad habits and poor form and correct you,” said Dr. Osuch. “Whether it’s golf, running, or even swimming, bad technique with strokes in swimming can give you shoulder and lower back pain.”
If you can’t afford a private session, Dr. Osuch suggests finding an experienced friend or someone who is familiar with the sport, or even watching self-help videos online to learn good tips. Bad habits from poor form can result in both acute injuries and chronic injuries like tendonitis.
3. Find a workout partner.
Having a friend with you, first of all, makes the sport or activity more fun. But second, and perhaps more importantly, you will have someone there.
“It’s important during these summer sports to watch out for one another and have someone who can troubleshoot poor technique and make sure you’re being safe,” said Dr. Osuch. “Especially in the summer when people are biking or swimming, it's good to have someone with you in case someone bad happens and you do get injured.”
4. Get the proper equipment.
One of the most effective ways to prevent injury is to wear the proper shoes. Dr. Osuch advises people to be sure they’re playing the sport a specific shoe is meant for and on the surface it’s meant for. Wearing kleeted shoes meant for soft ground on artificial turf, or running in tennis court shoes are both mistakes that can lead to summer sports injuries or chronic pain. For athletes complaining of pain, Dr. Osuch says he often asks about shoes first.
“Make sure you have new shoes with good arch support and firm heel support. If you feel the back of the shoes and squeeze them, they shouldn’t be easily compressable,” said Dr. Osuch. “Minimal running shoes are good for some people but not all people. Those shoes can predispose people with tendonitis, but the trouble is I see people when they already have tendonitis and the shoes have failed.”
Especially if you have flat feet or pronate when you walk, Dr. Osuch says supportive shoes make a huge difference in preventing injury.
5. Be mindful.
For runners, being mindful of where you run and how you run can be just as important as proper shoes.
“Lots of people run facing traffic, so if you always run in the road in the same direction, you’re always landing with one foot higher than the other foot, which predisposes you to tendonitis as well,” said Dr. Osuch. “It’s also important to change the surface. So don’t always run on the road. Run on the sidewalk, track, or trail.” Find paths as well with different curves or hills to keep it fresh as well.
Dr. Osuch also warns people to be wary of changing grips in golf or tennis. “Generally, be sensitive and mindful if you do something new,” he said. “If you develop pain relatively shortly thereafter, then take a step back and readjust, or call in an expert.”
6. Prepare your muscles.
One of the best ways to prevent injury is to build the target muscles for the sport or activity you’re getting back into. Dustin Martin and Brian Weller, co-owners of Barry’s Bootcamp Boston, have singled out a few of their favorite summer activities and strength training moves that can help improve performance and prevent injury.
Biking: Since it involves a steady grind on the legs, you want a lower body that can handle it and get you up those hills without hopping off your bike.
Try this workout:
Right Leg Bulgarian Split Squats – do for 60 seconds, then finish by holding squat for 30 seconds
Left Leg Bulgarian Split Squats – do for 60 seconds, then finish by holding squat for 30 seconds
Goblet Squats – 60 seconds (Repeat 3 times)
Surfing: A full body activity, a strong core is key for handling the board and maneuvering through unsteady waves.
Try this workout:
Jackknife – 60 seconds
Vertical Toe Touch – 60 seconds
V-Ups – 60 seconds (Repeat 2-3 times)
Golfing: Sure you can swing a club with all your might, but a solid core and lower back is what actually gives you the power to drive that ball 300 yards.
Bird Dog Right Arm/Left Leg – 90 seconds
Bird Dog Left Arm/Right Leg – 90 seconds
Superman – do for 60 seconds, then finish with a 30 second hold (Repeat 3 times)
Tennis: Forget the grunts, and focus on toning the arms and shoulders for a killer serve.
Butterfly – 60 seconds
Tricep Kickbacks – 60 seconds
Arnold Press – 60 seconds (Repeat 3 times)
7. Get out there.
“Enjoy it and have fun,” said Dr. Osuch. “In New England we don’t have that much time with the weather being nice to enjoy activites and get out there.”
What new or old sports are you getting into this summer? Tweet us @BeWellBostonChelsea Rice is a health producer for Boston.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaRice.